DekaStrong Hosted by Underlying Strength (PA)

Sometimes, a competition is more than just an event. 

More than just a time on a stopwatch. 

More than just a challenge of fitness. 

After almost a full year of cancelled races and virtual challenges, being able to compete in-person is a gift. It’s that void you’ve been feeling ever since the last time you went head-to-head with someone who wasn’t on a computer. DekaStrong offered a chance to fill that void this March with a gym-hosted event in Yardley, Pennsylvania.


Deka What? 

Underlying Strength, which opened at the end of 2016, had the opportunity to host one of DekaStrong’s first ever events. DekaStrong consists of ten fitness stations with no running in between. Deka, an affiliate of Spartan Race, also offers the DekaFit and DekaMile, both of which include a specified running distance between stations. DekaMile and DekaStrong share the same stations. DekaFit has mostly the same, with a couple that are slightly different.


DekaStrong Stations (Men’s Weight/Women’s Weight):

  1. 30 x Spartan RAM Alternating Reverse Lunges (55/33)
  2. 500m Row
  3. 20 x Box Jump Over/Step Over (24” for both)
  4. 25 x Medicine Ball Sit-Up (20/14)
  5. 500m SkiErg
  6. 100m Farmer’s Carry (60/40)
  7. 25-Calorie Assault Bike
  8. 20 x Dead Ball Shoulder Overs (60/40)
  9. 100m Tank Push/Pull
  10. 20 x Spartan RAM Burpees (44/22)


Just How Tough Is It? 

If you want the short answer, DekaStrong is a kick in the ass. If you don’t at least have some familiarity with the stations, you’ll probably struggle. Unless, of course, you’re already a really well-rounded athlete. 


The best way to help you prepare is with a lot of metabolic conditioning and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Even with those, however, you’ll still want to at least have a few runs with each exercise required. 


Obviously, some of the stations are harder to train for than others. Not everyone has access to the necessary equipment to specifically train for DekaStrong. That’s what makes Deka-Affiliated gyms, like Underlying Strength, an extremely useful training tool. You can get somewhat ready with a lot of equipment that a normal gym has. But to really prepare, and ultimately succeed, finding an affiliate would be a tremendous advantage. 


What To Expect

If you’re familiar with Spartan Races, you might be expecting a lot of the same at a Deka event. Gym-hosted DekaStrong events, however, are different from what you’d find at a Spartan Race in many ways. 


First, there is no chip-timing. Not really a huge deal since you have a volunteer that stays with you throughout each station to count your reps and keep your overall time. It doesn’t exactly make you a CrossFit Games athlete, but you may feel like one. Although, since all heats are open at the gym-hosted events, there aren’t any awards. 


Next up, the swag. The DekaStrong shirts are 100% cotton, unlike most Spartan finisher shirts, which are polyester or at least a combination of the two. There’s also no finisher medal, but you do receive a wedge piece. 


One of the bigger differences from a normal Spartan event is really the photos. This may not be the case at every single Deka event, but at least the gym-hosted events don’t include free photos. Luckily, Underlying Strength organized and funded photos and videos for the event. Photos became available for purchase a few days after the event. 


DekaStrong is really a photo-friendly type of event because of the stations, so hopefully Deka makes the decision to fund them in the future. It’s worth noting that the local companies Underlying Strength used for photography (Wanderlove/Yardley) and videography (5Cents Media/Philadelphia) did an absolutely fantastic job. 


One of the biggest benefits to a DekaStrong gym-hosted event is the price tag. Most Spartan races are at least $100, if not more. DekaStrong is a very financially friendly option at $39.99. Which more than likely explains some of the areas where you’re not getting the same type of take home swag with each registration. Overall, for the amount of money spent, it’s completely worth pushing yourself to see just how fast you can complete the event. 


How’d They Do?

Considering everything that continues to go on with the global pandemic, Underlying Strength did a phenomenal job hosting its first event. Because of COVID restrictions, they did have limited wave sizes, but sold out with a total of 64 registrants. Gym owner and certified fitness trainer, Sid Turner, said that was more than they expected when they scheduled the event. 


We are still down about 25%. With more people choosing to workout at home, the fitness industry has definitely taken a shift,” he explained. “However, events like Deka create an energy that no at home workout will ever be able to replicate. With that being said, Things will shift back, we just have to keep bringing the noise!”


If you missed out on this event, Underlying Strength intends to host many more events to come during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. There’s even a DekaMile already on their schedule for this May. 


Because it’s a smaller facility, and some of the stations need to be outdoors, there won’t be any competitions in the colder months. But you can still train there to get yourself ready for the next event. 


If you’re nowhere near Yardley, just mask up and hop on a plane. Or, you can check out Deka’s website for all event dates and locations. 


Photo Credit: Wanderlove (@discoverwanderlove)


Video coverage of last year’s DekaFit Jacksonville, Florida


A Bunch of Cheaters

How to do burpees

Cheaters suck.

In competition, there is little that is more frustrating than losing to someone who has cheated.

For Obstacle Racing to become a legitimate “sport” and a valid test of competitive superiority among its athletes, there must be standards that are met by all participants. When participants take it upon themselves to ignore the rules of competition, chaos ensues, doubts are raised, and conflicts develop.

Don’t be a cheater.

Attempt Every Obstacle

If you sign up for an obstacle race, you should expect to attempt every obstacle. In this writer’s opinion, if you KNOW you cannot swim, don’t sign up and just skip the swimming obstacle. Instead, find another race.

There is no shame in failing; but there is plenty of shame in first, glancing around to see if anyone is looking, and then, waddling past a 8-foot wall because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself struggling up the obstacle like a stranded seal in San Francisco Bay.

OCR is a supportive community. If you are willing to try, there a hundred athletes behind you, all ready to help you achieve that goal. If that means squatting on all fours and creating a step-ladder for you to get over that wall, or cupping the hands to give you a lift, or even collecting a group to toss your big ass over, athletes in the community will be there for you.

Even better, they’ll high-five you on the other side, tell you what a great job you did, and move on.

That’s the experience you came for when you signed up for an obstacle race, isn’t it?

Complete Your Obstacle Penalties

Most races do not have obstacle penalties. I could write an entire piece about this subject as in my humble opinion, a race with no penalties is no valid race at all – it’s just a trail run.

Spartan Race is probably the most well-known obstacle race series in which penalties can be a major factor in race performance and finish time. Typically, failing or skipping a major obstacle in a Spartan Race will result in the participant being ushered to the sidelines to complete thirty [30] full-range burpees.

They key here is “30”, and “full-range”, but what is really going on is anything but.

Is Counting To 30 An Obstacle?

It sure seems that way.

Next race, meander on over to a monkey bar obstacle, rope climb, or wall traverse and watch the crowds of obstacle failures attempt their set of burpees. Let me know if you find more than 1 out of 5 that are actually completing their obstacle penalty, because I’ve never seen it.

Why should that seemingly fit girl in purple tights get to short her burpee count, when a far less fit athlete, is struggling through her burpees, as instructed?

At one race, I informed a girl from the sidelines, “hey – that was only 14 burpees.”

Her response? “I have to catch up to my friends.”

There’s something wrong with that, isn’t there?

A Burpee Is Not A Squat Thrust

There is almost an infinite number of videos on YouTube displaying proper burpee form, but in short, the bottom of the burpee should have the athlete on the ground, full legs, hip, and torso contact, with the top of the movement consisting of an open hip, and controlled jump into the air.

That is a legit burpee.

You’ll find people who throw their legs behind them, into a high-butt plank, and then jump right back up, and do it again.

That’s not a legit burpee. No rep.

You’ll find people who flop to the ground, roll side-to-side to get themselves up, and then with a muted hip, start the process over. No open hip, no jump, and in my opinion, no rep.

Who Cares, Cranky?

I care.

I’m hardly an elite racer and I’ve never seen the podium in OCR, but I do run the elite heats, and in these heats more than anywhere, I expect a higher level of competitive integrity. The problem stems from the the top, to the back of the pack, and I would like to see our community police it more, and especially when there is money involved for the top finishers.

Look at every OCR race web site out there. What is the overarching theme?


“Dig deep and challenge yourself.”

“Achieve the seemingly impossible.”

I have yet to see a race that promotes,

“Super easy obstacles.”

“30 burpee penalty (unless you don’t want to).”

“Anyone can do it!”

Why? Because most obstacle course races want to be viewed as true tests of one’s physical, mental, and emotional capability under the duress of challenging competition – whether vs. oneself or other racers.

Cheating in an obstacle race only cheats one person – yourself. You are the one that has to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and asterisk your own race finish, right?

Now It’s Your Turn

So I ask the community, how much cheating do you see? How has it affected you or your race, and better yet, what can we do to curb it? Let us know in the comments below. Remember the OCR community is YOUR community and rest assured that the race directors are watching and reading.

Speak up to drive change.


Cranky Bastard is a weekly editorial feature of Obstacle Racing Media, written by a member of the OCR community, to share personal thoughts, experiences and opinions regarding obstacle racing. Got an opinion? Let ’em have it.